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Man Charged With Intentionally Derailing Train Near Hospital Ship At LA's Port

A woman hangs a flag near the US Navy Hospital ship Mercy after it docked in L.A. (Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images)
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A train engineer has admitted that he intentionally derailed a locomotive off the end of its tracks at the Port of Los Angeles, crashing through multiple barricades near the Navy hospital ship Mercy on Tuesday afternoon, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Eduardo Moreno, 44, of San Pedro, faces a federal charge of train wrecking, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years behind bars.

A CHP officer allegedly witnessed the crash and arrested Moreno when he tried to flee the scene. That officer, according to court filings, saw:

“[T]he train smash into a concrete barrier at the end of the track, smash into a steel barrier, smash into a chain-link fence, slide through a parking lot, slide across another lot filled with gravel, and smash into a second chain-link fence.”

Why would a train operator intentionally crash an engine?
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The U.S. Attorney’s office said in a press release that Moreno admitted in two separate interviews he had steered the train off its tracks because he was suspicious of the Navy hospital ship and thought it was part of a government takeover or had some other nefarious purpose.

Moreno allegedly told the CHP officer at the scene yesterday afternoon:

"You only get this chance once. The whole world is watching. I had to. People don't know what's going on here. Now they will. At night, they turn off the lights and don't let anyone in. I'm going to expose this to the world. When was the last time you went to Dodgers' stadium? We might not be able to go again."

Moreno believed the wreck would bring media attention, so that “people could see for themselves,” and to “wake people up,” he said, according to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint.

“Moreno stated that he thought that the U.S.N.S. Mercy was suspicious and did not believe ‘the ship is what they say it’s for,” the affidavit said.

No one was injured in the crash, and the Navy medical ship was not damaged — but the train came to rest close to three vehicles with people inside, and it leaked a “substantial” amount of oil that had to be cleaned up by fire department and hazmat teams.

Video recorded inside the train show Moreno holding a lighted flare inside the cab, according to Los Angeles Port Police.

Moreno is set to make his first appearance in federal court this afternoon.

The Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy arrived on Friday morning to support Los Angeles’ pandemic response. It is accepting non-coronavirus patients to ease the burden on local hospitals so they can focus on testing and treating COVID-19 cases.

At his evening press briefing, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti was asked if the derailment will affect the Mercy ship's medical mission.

"That shouldn't in any way change the operations," Garcetti said. "We still have vehicle access, and we can get people in and out of there. And they have been accepting patients."

Garcetti added VA patients were among the first transferred to the floating Navy hospital.